Health Care Equity? Not For Everyone.
There are different definitions of inequity, and “lack of fairness or justice” is the most basic. “Achieving health equity,” as explained by the Healthy People 2020 project, “requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.” We live in a country where any person supposedly has access to health care. But just because we all theoretically have access to health care does not always mean that the care we receive is equitable across the board.
There are many different types of health inequities, but in light of the recent Supreme Court Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, I’m going to focus on the health inequities between men and women. This ruling has shown us that religious freedoms of corporations are more important than women’s ability to have control of their own bodies. As physicians-in-training, we know that it is much more dangerous for a woman to go through pregnancy and give birth than it is to insert a simple IUD. This is one of the safest and most effective forms of birth control, and it is now essentially unattainable for the women that work for a “closely held” corporation. These corporations are exempt through court interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they believe that life begins at conception and do not believe that birth control devices that inhibit implantation should be used by their employees. In addition, women are already more likely to suffer from financial insecurity, so the ability for these women to make health-conscious decisions for themselves is that much more important to prevent the cycle of poor socioeconomic status.
The categorical discrimination against women in this manner is unacceptable. What are we as future providers going to do about it? As physicians-in-training, it is now more important than ever to talk to our patients about their family planning options, and we need to make sure that we can provide them with the most accurate information available to work within this system that we have inherited. In addition to making sure that we have informed, empowered patients, we need to find ways to try and actively create change. Remember that even in our short white coats, we have a voice and the ability to tell our politicians how we feel while providing them with accurate medical information. In this current political environment, there will not be change unless we come together as a society and state that trading away individual freedoms for corporate religious exemptions is not OK. AMSA has and will help stand up for our collective beliefs, but it is going to take all of us acting together to really make an impact.
Dr. Britani Kessler is AMSA’s national president and a recent graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.